A Protest Music Interview: GÉNN

From one of the smallest nations in Europe, the punk rock band GÉNN arose, rocked, traveled and finally ended up in the United Kingdom. Malta, their home country, is a tiny island in the central Mediterranean sea that is both full of culture at the same time as being very old school and driven by ancient patriarchy.

Even though the music scene in Malta was personal and tight knit, the girls in GÉNN felt they needed to explore further options. In the UK the band found a new home and exciting possibilities.

I spoke with the guitar player of the band, Janelle, about their music and their role as women in the music scene.

Halldór: First of all, for those not familiar with your work, who are GENN?

Janelle: We’re a four-piece Anglo-Maltese post-punk band based in Brighton and we’re ready to kick ass and rock your ears!

H: Malta is a unique and ancient place. Sometimes places like that still have remnants of the old ways in society. With most of GENN being from the tiny island, how can you describe its music scene and how has it been being a female musician in that environment? And is it different in the UK, now that you have relocated to there?

J: Malta and the Maltese language are definitely part of us….as a band, we’re very much connected to the Mediterranean region and way of life..three of us are from Malta (Leanne, Leona and I) and Sofia is also half-Portughese. The band started in Malta. There aren’t a lot of female musicians over there and the alternative music community is small but tightly knit. When we got robbed in 2018, the music community came together to fundraise new equipment for us which was honestly such a heartwarming gesture.

We decided to relocate to the UK mainly because of the fact that the UK has been and will always be a hub for alternative music. It’s definitely different over here as it’s more of an established industry and it’s super cut-throat. However, we thrive when faced with challenges…we also found Sofia (our drummer) here! So you can say that it was meant to be.

H: On your brilliant debut album, Titty Monster, there seems to be a theme of female empowerment and feminism. What inspires you to write down lyrics? How important is it for you to use lyrics to send a specific message out into the universe?

J: Honestly, we didn’t set out to write a ‘feminist’ album. We were simply writing a diary of what we experience…and since we’re women, this is what we go through on a daily basis. I think it’s great that there are more female voices and point of views in music and art nowadays. Leona (the singer) writes the lyrics. She’s an existentialist…so the lyrics reflect what she would be thinking at that moment and her experiences as she navigates through life. The lyrics usually reflect a ‘story’ that happens to one of us or a particular experience we’re going through either collectively and personally. I think Leona does a good job in reflecting this in our lyrics. 

Photo by Bridie Florence

H: Do you feel a responsibility to use your music as a tool of empowerment for young girls (or anyone else) or do you separate the music and the activism?

J: As a band, we do kind of separate music and activism. We’re musicians and artists first. However, since we navigate spaces as womxn, speaking about issues that affect us and other womxn is unavoidable and it’s also important in the current global climate. We do hope our music inspires young girls (and big girls too!) to pick up an instrument and explore all of their talents! The world would definitely be a better place if more womxn believed in themselves and supported each other. 

H: What do you hope to achieve with your music?

J: We would really love to be able to tour the world with our music and connect with other souls 🙂 We’d love to create timeless pieces that inspire others as much as we are inspired by others’ music. That would be the dream .

H: What musicians have inspired you? Are you following other contemporary artists you’d like to throw a shout out to?

J: Personally, I’m inspired by a wide range of musicians including Jeff Buckley, Warpaint, Hinds, Joni Mitchell, Amy Winehouse, Chopin, Pink Floyd, The Clash, CAN, The Doors…to name but a few. I’ve recently discovered Jefferson Airplane and I’m a huge fan. I’d like to throw a shout to fellow Brighton-based outfits Austerity, Stone Cold Fiction and Arxx…label mates Ghum…and Maltese artists Djun, Beangrowers, Oxygyn, Sam Christie, Berne, Joon, I Am Willow and Beesqueeze, amongst many many others!

H: What is on the horizon for the band?

J: Considering the current situation, we went from a tonne of gigs to zero. But that’s okay. We’re writing and working on our craft instead 🙂 Hoping this pandemic situation blows over soon so that we can also go back to gigging.

H: Thank you very much for participating and for your music. Anything else you’d like to shout from the rooftops?

J: Stay safe!

Cover photo by Bridie Florence

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Halldór is the managing editor of Shouts - Music from the Rooftops!, an investigative journalist, audio engineer and an animal rights activist. Currently based in Granada, Spain.

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